Restaurant concept: There's been a surge of barbecue enthusiasts in Los Angeles, re-creating authentic, slow-cooked Texas-style 'cue, such as Smoke City Market in Sherman Oaks and Bludso's, to name a couple. But there's one place whose primary focus is to provide central Texas-style barbecue — what you'll find at the lauded Franklin's BBQ in Austin — by using prime, spice-rubbed brisket that is wood-smoked for hours. And it happens to be in Huntington Park.
Name/owner: Ray's BBQ is named after owner and self-taught pitmaster Rene "Ray" Ramirez, who opened the place in August 2014. Ramirez says he felt that it was important to open his restaurant in the city where he grew up and wanted to give residents a place to try authentic barbecue — and not only on weekends.
Before opening the brick-and-mortar, he would sell his barbecue out of his backyard to neighbors and friends. After building a strong local following, a barbecue forum contributor suggested that he open his own restaurant. With the help of the community, along with social media, he put his restaurant plan in motion in January 2014. The crowdfunding campaign that he started was well-received, and before long he met his goal. Despite having no restaurant experience, Ramirez, with the support of his wife, Anabel, and the community, leased a space once occupied by a Pizza Man restaurant.
Concept: Central Texas-style smoked barbecue made in small batches using prime-grade Creekstone Farms beef. Although the brisket reigns supreme, Ray's also serves tender, dry-rubbed baby back pork ribs along with housemade sides such as potato salad, mac and cheese and coleslaw.
What it's like inside: The Texas-centric decor includes, close-up pictures on the wall of menu items like the Mac Link Burrito (we'll get to that in a second), stacks of barbecue books and a blown-up poster of Ramirez alongside pitmaster Aaron Franklin at Franklin's in Texas.
Who is at the next table: City workers picking up large catering trays for an office lunch meeting, CHP officers, construction workers, and twentysomethings digging into a fully loaded plate of brisket nachos (yes, you can order these too).
What to order, besides the brisket: Ray's BBQ offers a hefty two-pound Brisket Mac Link burrito that comes loaded with diced chunks of Ray's brisket, mac and cheese, smoked jalapeño-cheddar links imported from Southside Market in Elgin, Texas, and house baked beans, all tightly wrapped in a humongous flour tortilla.
PSA: Ray's recently started offering slices of its brisket on thick, handmade Salvadorian-style tortillas as a secret menu item. Also, the restaurant just added pulled pork to its menu. And if you're not trying to leave the city, home or office for your barbecue, Ray's BBQ now offers delivery service through its website and/or app via Post Mates.
What you're drinking: Strawberry-kiwi lemonade, which is tart and very cold and made every day.
Info: 6038 Santa Fe Ave., Huntington Park, (323) 978-1116, www.raysbbqhp.com.